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May 18, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Letters Letters (May 18, 2005)

Support from HP


Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) supports Palo Alto Unified School District's (PAUSD) Measure A. We recognize that if Measure A is not passed, PAUSD's budgetary situation may force teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, reduced course offerings and the closure of schools. We want to ensure that this does not happen.

As you may know, HP has a long legacy of supporting schools and educational programs. In a global economy, we understand the importance of preparing and training a competitive and qualified workforce. And we value the practice of thinking globally and acting locally.

In 2003, we expressed concern when the State of California began cutting "basic aid" educational funds. Simultaneously, we have watched PAUSD's revenues grow more slowly than district costs, and local enrollment grow without offsetting compensation.

Now Palo Alto's previous education parcel tax is set to expire next year. At HP, we understand the urgency of passing Measure A for Palo Alto schools' continued success.

Since HP was founded in Palo Alto more than 65 years ago, many of our employees and our employees' children have come up through the local district. Palo Alto's teachers and schools have done an excellent job of preparing the next generation of workers and leaders.

We want to ensure this continued excellence. We support Measure A and we encourage others to join us.
Sidney Espinosa
Manager of Public Relations, Hewlett-Packard Company
Hanover Street
Palo Alto

Enron regret


The May 4 editorial in the Palo Alto Weekly stated that the utility rate increases had nothing to do with the Enron payout by the city. The Weekly's own article of that same day on the rate increases stated that the utility reserves, which are being used to pay Enron, need to be replenished and that some of the rate increases would be used for that purpose.

The Utility Advisory Commission, which met that same night, confirmed this fact. In addition, I heard Dick Rosenbaum of the commission state that for the first time in the history of our utilities, our utility rates would be higher than PG&E's.

I do not know if he meant the overall utility rates or specific ones. So it seems that utility users will be paying higher rates to make up for the Enron payout from the utility reserves.
Natalie Fisher
Ellsworth Place
Palo Alto

Education irony


Is it just me, or did anyone else note an ironic correlation between two unrelated articles in the May 6 Palo Alto Weekly: "Survey confirms student stress..." and "Children learn to tap the 'music within'"?

First, let me applaud the Weekly for continuing to keep the important topic of student stress in the forefront. As many of the students stated in the article, a lot of attention has been given to the topic but nothing seems to get done about it.

Let me also applaud Lisa Chu for giving up a lucrative career to pursue her dream of teaching violin to young children through her "The Music Within Us" lessons. I certainly won't dispute that early developmentally appropriate music education for children can have profound benefits in their later academic years.

In the first article, Paly junior Vivian Nguyen comments, "I think our society wants everyone to live up to higher standards." In the second article, toddlers as young as 2 are having violins placed in their hands and are "urged" to practice two to three times a day in 10-minute increments.

What standards will these pre-schoolers have to live up to when they enter high school?

While I don't know whether Chu's music program is age-appropriate or not, when I look at 3-year-olds with violin and bow in hand, I can't help thinking that this is where the pressure starts. This quest to produce well-rounded, high-achieving Palo Alto super-stars begins at an early age in our community.

Whatever happened to giving your musically inclined 3-year-old some pots and pans and a wooden spoon to bang around?

The expectations for our kids are constantly being raised while their chronological age for achievement is lowered. Until we make these connections and start having realistic age-appropriate expectations for our children, student stress will continue to flourish in Palo Alto.
Chantal Dangler
South Court
Palo Alto

From ban to law


Thanks to Jocelyn Dong for her article "Winds of Change" (April 29) about debris blowers. A ban on gas-powered debris blowers is scheduled to become law on July 1.

The legal limit is 65 decibels from 50 feet away, but residents have taken meter readings of 70 decibels from a neighbor's blower within their own homes. It causes unprotected operators to lose 10 percent of their hearing a year.

Noise that loud is stressful and forces people living and/or working nearby to accommodate their activities around it. Where I lived downtown, blowers roared next door or across the street for three hours a week. Added together, that's 12 hours a month I was subjected to a solid wall of noise.

The landscapers started blowing at 8 a.m. when the legal time is 9 a.m. The legal stop time is 5 p.m. but I've seen them used until 6:30 p.m.

The landscapers insist they need their blowers to earn a living, but many cities in California have had blower bans for years without the landscapers suffering hardships. The law was voted by City Council five years from the date it is to become law, which is plenty of time for both the blower manufacturers and landscapers to plan for this change.

I urge everyone to write the City Council letters and come address the council on June 13 at 7 p.m., asking them to vote for the ban to become law.
Elizabeth Lee
Sierra Court
Palo Alto

Anti-A motives


The lead author of the ballot argument against Measure A, the renewal of Palo Alto's school parcel tax on the June 7 ballot, is Allen Hacker, and it is submitted in his capacity as chairman of the Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County.

The Libertarian Party's platform on education, adopted at its national convention in Atlanta last year, states: "We call for the repeal of the guarantees of tax-funded, government-provided education, which are found in most state constitutions. We further support immediate reduction of tax support for schools, and removal of the burden of school taxes from those not responsible for the education of children." (

Voters, don't be fooled. These critics of Measure A aren't trying to make our school district more efficient -- they want to abolish public education. If you value this community and its excellent public schools, be sure to vote yes on Measure A.
Mark Chandler
Tennyson Avenue
Palo Alto

The democratic way?


How bizarre is it that the United States insists on democracies around the world as the only acceptable way to run a country and that some of the people running the United States insist on behaving more like members of an exclusive private club than the elected representatives they are supposed to be.

It seems that the old adage is particularly relevant at this time in our country: "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

We need to stop and remind the people who threaten, intimidate and demonize American judges and courts in order to further their ultra-right-wing agenda that this is not acceptable to those people who sincerely participate in a democracy that promises "justice for all."

Harassing judges is not in the best interest of our country and the democratically elected leadership should not be spending time, energy and money catering to the special agenda of a few vindictive minds.

Therefore, the relentless and vicious attempts by some in the U.S. Congress to discredit judges flies directly in the face of the founders of our Constitution. These attempts can only serve to weaken the effect of the separation of power embedded in that Constitution.

This brilliant scheme is exactly what is needed to prevent an otherwise democratically elected government from becoming an authoritarian regime. I don't think the intention of the American people who voted is to live under an authoritarian administration.

You still live in a democracy; you know what to do.
Joan Shah
Cottrell Way

Demystifying Mayfield


On May 2 the Palo Alto City Council approved the Mayfield Agreement. This was the culmination of five years of hard work on the part of many individuals and community organizations who deserve enormous thanks.

Afterwards there were some comments that the council "had no authority to adjust the terms of the agreement" and the suggestion that concerns raised by neighboring homeowners were not addressed. This is not the case.

The development agreement was adjusted after the Planning Commission reviewed it in February. These adjustments were made through technical corrections amending the agreement, in response to public and commission comments.

Written changes were made to reduce heights, increase setbacks and adjust densities for the housing on California Avenue. Height limits were lowered so new homes will not be taller than the Agilent building that some Peter Coutts residents look down on today.

The council was free to ask to negotiate additional changes if it felt the development agreement was unacceptable. That would then have lead to new negotiations to which both the city and Stanford would have to agree.

What the council could not do was unilaterally impose conditions on its approval as though this were an ordinary development application. In the end, the council majority did not feel that additional terms were needed for this to be a beneficial agreement for the community.
Jean McCown
Director of Community Relations, Stanford University

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